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Moody Center for the Arts

a lab for creativity

Michael Maltzan Architecture

Moody Center for the Arts
By Michael Webb -

Houston is a sprawling, vibrant, and unregulated city in which a skyscraper can spring up next to a wood-frame cottage. At its heart are two enclaves of order: the Menil museum complex and the campus of Rice University. Rice is a century old, and the buildings that line its tree-shaded axes are as uniform as soldiers on parade, sharing the same neo-classical vocabulary and buff brick cladding. Michael Maltzan won the commission to create the Moody Center for the Arts with a linear block that is full of references to the context but stands apart from its neighbors. In a university best known for its schools of engineering, medicine, and sciences, Moody is a key part of an emerging arts district that extends across the southern sector of the campus. It joins the music and dance departments, a James Turrell Sky Space, and an opera house that will soon break ground, serving the 7,000 students as well as residents who come here to enjoy a cultural and recreational resource. As Maltzan explains, “Rice is trying to grow its position in the creative arts, developing a series of experimental programs. They are pairing engineering and design, bio-technology and literature, bringing together diverse fields of study to see what comes out of those mash-ups.” For its director, Alison Weaver, Moody is a trans-disciplinary lab for creativity, a platform for creating and presenting innovative work, a flexible teaching space, and a forum for creative partnerships with visiting artists. That is a substantial program for a 5,000 sq m, two-story building, but Maltzan has concealed its complexity and achieved a sense of openness and lightness. The upper-story is boldly articulated as a succession of cubic volumes that project forward and appear to levitate over the fully-glazed north façade of the ground floor. In contrast to the buff brick of its neighbors, the architects specified a black magnesium brick that changes with the light, turning deep purple on bright...

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